Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pathways #69: Schools and Acadamies is released!

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Long story short, I've published my second Pathfinder related writing here in issue #69. Now I'll just get out of the way... And what a great cover!

Pathways: Schools and Academies 

How can you say "No" to a FREE collection of Pathfinder templates, encounters, variant monster rules, and variant masterwork weapons? If you say no designer Owen K.C. Stephens and artist Tan Hui Tian will send the Book Bound Monster to you!


Pathways #69
Rite Publishing brings you Pathways, a free 'zine packed with plenty of Open Game Content for you to take to the table. You'll find articles by  Owen K.C. Stephens, Creighton Broadhurst, David J. Paul, Wendall Roy, J.L. Duncan, and Jacob Gobhar.

We also have a special interview with Christina Stiles and our 36th installment of the Path Less Traveled by Jacob E. Blackmon.

As ever, Pathways would not be possible without our Patrons. If you love what we do, please check out Rite Publishing on Patreon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RPG Review: Alpha Blue

Alpha Blue
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RPG Review: Alpha Blue
Published By: Kort'thalis Publishing (site)
Author: Venger As’Nas Satanis
Review By: J.L. Duncan

In the vast expanse of the interweb a role playing game (RPG) titled Alpha Blue was successfully funded October 2015 via Kickstarter for $4.5K internet bucks. The book was up for general sale in the adult section with Onebookshelf (OBS: drivethrurpg & rpgnow) in December the same year. In March 2016 the title was temporarily pulled from OBS for “potentially offensive” content. Namely, as OBS put it customer complaint; but after in-house review, the title back up for purchase two days later.

The origin of the controversy, what most of the RPG community picked up on, (Links for reference at Tenkar's Tavern & to RPG Pundit) was the use of a fictional Muslim terrorist organization the “Interstellar Caliphate” and descriptive text of a plot device, the “Rape Machine.”

Despite the above, Venger As’Nas Satanis’s, Alpha Blue role playing game (RPG) isn’t quite the campy, oversexualized, space station hive of scum and villainy, I might have been looking for.

Move along, move along…



..

.

(Still here?)

Alpha Blue might be cult campy, if there is such category. If by oversexualized, I refine the word to mostly male, metrosexual fantasy tropes. But, then again what else is there (insert, sarcasm)? Hive of scum and villainy? Okay, we give it Dirk Diggler points for that. It’s a brothel, in space! Sort of, but wait there’s more!

Once upon a wishing well, Alpha Blue was the Terran Federation’s (earth’s) repository for sexual deviants, derelicts and nymphomaniacs. Now embarking upon the 23rd century, it drifts about, never in one place… It roams around, around, around, around, around. The sleaze of Alpha Blue’s half a million many, out sleazes the needs of the galactic stew (promise that’s almost the last, bad pun).

The setting material or where Alpha Blue will roam is presented with a basic outline of the galaxy. A number of brief plot hooks are seeded throughout the writing, as well as chapters for Scenario Seeds and NPCs do a good job of engaging the reader to potentially run the material. I’m in favor of writing which directly engages the Space Dungeon Master’s (SDM) desire to run said material, and it’s not always a given with a setting treatment.

System wise, Alpha Blue utilizes a unique and light, d6 dice pool. Most conflict resolution involves a character rolling 2d6 against a target number of 4 or better, 3d6 if the character has an advantage or 1d6 for situations which the SDM determines the character has a disadvantage. The highest die total of the pool is taken. Success or failure is rated on a sliding scale: 4 being a partial success, 5 a success, 6 a critical success. There is short section on converting the material to OSR and even a couple of interesting ideas for doing so, but it will need a few more hours to be properly configured on the navi-computer. Instead of the system, converting the setting material to the space opera themed RPG of your preference, be it Stars Without Number, Traveler, or even Starfinder is probably just as likely.

Character creation is just as light as the system. No traits, attributes or (+1 and/or -1) modifiers. Players will pick their poison rolling twice (either once for each, of twice on the same) on the Respectable Careers Table and/or Scoundrel Career Table; or roll once on either of the prior mentioned tables and instead roll for their characters to have mutation, be an alien, or be “something special,” which I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

Speaking of tables, Alpha Blue has heaping handful of them. It’s certainly enough to sprain your dice wrist, if you’re not careful. There are tables for: alien creatures, creating character backgrounds, fashion (really fashion…? Yes.). Also, more tables such as character astrology, sexual fantasies & fetishes, wealth, and whole bunch of other stuff, including elements which should assist the SDM in regards to fleshing in some of the details of their adventures.

The portable document format (PDF) of Alpha Blue in 114 pages cover to cover including a basic un-specified map of the station, finishing with character sheets and a lined notes section. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked, which is a nice feature. The color cover does an adequate job of portraying the source material or sleazy theme. The interior illustrations are black and white ranging from semi-raunchy (partial nudity, sexual overtones), interesting, to mundane.

As far as the sexual elements go, Alpha Blue doesn’t go near the level I thought it might. In fact, the writing of these elements are just that, elements (more optional than not) and not a requirement of using the setting. The Interstellar Caliphate is a religious group of bad folks doing bad things, and the Rape Machine is a plot device used by bad guys. Subjectively speaking, could these elements been pulled off with a little more class, yeah… But, I doubt the author of an RPG who coins his own title as “sleazy, gonzo science-fantasy,” had interest in doing such…

For certain, if you consider yourself sensitive to sexual themed material then Alpha Blue probably isn’t your cup of coffee (if you’re still reading). If you’re mostly indifferent, then this is a product has a respectable amount of material, whether you decide to run it as is, or mine it for ideas in regards to the space opera themed RPG of your choice.

Note: This review originally written and published on July 28, 2017, Stuffer Shack.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Robotech RPG Tactics Game of Quotes Part Two

Regular updates on Palladium Books, Game of Quotes (link to part one for a recap) continues... In Scott Gibbons seventh update (which is actually his eighth...*shrug*), he reveals some very mediocre news. Bolded emphasis mine. Let's get to it!

Update #207


"With regard to RRT Wave 2, we spoke with representatives of several manufacturers and reviewed samples of their work. We are now awaiting refined quotes as we were able to discuss what we want to accomplish with Wave Two. That included confirming with them the level of detail that we are seeking to preserve while reducing part counts."

While admittedly this is pretty underwhelming, interestingly John Starck Cadice, Palladium Books former miniatures partner (Ninja John, from Ninja Division) and the reason why many backed this crowdsourcing turd to begin with, gave a nugget to disgruntled backers. A bit of truth; pointing out the irrelevance of the update:


Robotech Tactics "Unofficial"
 
We'll leave the guy attempting to troll a former project collaborator, to his own devices, but thanks Jeff NMI Ruiz. Who knows? Without you, we might not have this nugget confirming that the Ninja's certainly did their part. (NDA be damned) And this certainly locks up, Palladium Books ineptitude. 100,000 comments, here we come.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Submissions Open: Zenith Games

Zenith Games
Zenith Games put up a call on the Paizo Freelancer Open Call forum, and is interested in freelancers who can produce 300-500 word, generic fantasy adventures. Rate of pay is 1 cent/word. And a week remains on the call.


All the info you need is above, (click to enlarge) including ZG's email and be sure to type in the subject line, "100 Side Quests Pitch." And here is Zenith Game's blogpost: 12 tips for writing adventures, to get you started. Best of luck!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review Burp: EN World, KoDT & Stuffer Shack

Disclosure: Product images on this page and the banner below may include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

KoDT #247
the DIG
RPG Reviews for EN World & KoDT continues and as mentioned, I've been able to add a third venue, which I look forward to assisting with my reviewer slush pile: Stuffer Shack. For EN World I reviewed The Dig RPG, for KoDT A Red & Pleasant Land, and with Stuffer Shack: Kenzer & CO's Deadly Trappings. A narrative RPG, a setting book for D&D/LotFP, and system neutral product -oh my!

The Dig is an interesting narrative RPG, which you'll gather friends, and craft tales, all without a Game Master. If you're a narrative gamer, this product is certainly something you should take a closer look at... Each players skill at crafting the narrative reminds me very much of a diceless system, but this game incorporates a few dice rolls (d6) for challenges. I've included a YouTube, play-through video below. The review is here (link to EN World Review).

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/141032/A-Red--Pleasant-Land?affiliate_id=815972
A Red & Pleasant Land
What can I say about A Red & Pleasant Land that hasn't already been said? I own the print 1st Edition & PDF. The genius of this product, is that it provides a literal road map for converting a fictional setting of your choice. Though I rarely agree, this product certainly deserved the ENnies it received (2 gold, 2 silver).

Deadly Trappings
Deadly Trappings is Kenzer & CO's trap manual, presumably the best of those traps published in Knights of the Dinner Table, before 2010. Certainly, as a regular contributor to KoDT I'm biased, and this is how I got my boot in the door... As I started writing Deadly Trappings for KoDT in September 2013 (four years ago, holy cow!)... Biased or not, I certainly think it's worth the $. I specify, none of the traps I've written, are in this manual. I hope one day "Deadlier Trappings" (sounds like a great title to me!) might be put together... (hint, hint) And some of my writing might be in that one, as a contributor. The review is here (link to Stuffer Shack review).

A full run through of the DIG RPG:



DriveThruRPG.com

Friday, September 1, 2017

RPG Review: Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition

WtF 2E
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Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition
Written By: Christopher Allen, David Brookshaw, N. Conte, Jim Fisher, David A Hill Jr, Matthew McFarland, John Newman, Leath Sheales, Travis Stout, Stew Wilson, Filamena Young
Published By: Onyx Path Publishing (company site)
Review By: J.L. Duncan

This is a review the portable document format (PDF) of Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition, which is available in PDF as well as in full color, hard cover print. Either product can be purchased at drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com. To assist with saving space, Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition will occasionally be shortened to WtF 2Ed.

Onyx Path Publishing (OPP) is the licensed publisher of White Wolf (WW) products and has been since 2012. I queried the company on a complete lark, inspired by the quality of the art: which for this book is absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t till I clicked off the first page that I realized that this product (OPP) was once that (WW) product.

Honestly, I had some trouble with this review. This is the (second, no) third draft. I usually don’t draft. When I finished reading Wtf 2Ed, I wasn’t evaluating it fairly. What happened?

Well, my first problem was that I have a habit of perceiving RPGs in a bubble. Sometimes this approach is works, other times (like for this game) it doesn’t. The second problem (upon thoughtful reflection) is that RPGs are not meant for just reading or case in point, reviewing. RPGs are meant for gaming. Read, comprehended and played. Certainly, the middle one took more time, than most games require.

The main issue with Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition is that the beginning text assumes familiarity. This fact put me a bit off my normal review talents because obviously I was unfamiliar, and neither did this situation provide a simple read. Not even my vague 90’s recollections of the White Wolf games I played back in the day could assist me. To make long story short (too late) comprehension required more than one pass.

My criticism of this RPG is it’s a bit over sophisticated. The confusion starts at the table of contents with how the chapters are titled and continues through with the introduction of vocabulary which is presumed the reader already understands the significance of. It’s not that the game doesn’t define itself, it actually does it very well-it’s about how it goes about defining itself.

While the writing itself is excellent and the art is spectacular, the organization and layout is far from intuitive. I saw this as a problem concerning new storytellers (or GMs) and players. Then again maybe I’m being unfair, as WtF 2Ed won’t be played in a bubble; it will be played with friends. This sophisticated approach is clearly beneficial to those already familiar with Onyx Path Publishing and the new World of Darkness line. To that customer base, I’m certain it appeals. Based on the jaw dropping quality of this product how could it not? Take it with a grain of salt and let’s get to it.

At its core, Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition is a story and character driven RPG. While there might be an argument that all RPGs are character driven or story driven etc. etc. few games in comparison provide the appropriate amount tools for this to be true. Though I hesitate to say WtF 2Ed is a sandbox, given the depth of detail concerning werewolf mythology, as well as in how it coincides with character play, it certainly can or perhaps should be utilized as such.
  
The mythos of Wtf 2Ed is given in fragments throughout the book, which cover what the werewolf is and how it comes to being. Concerning character, each werewolf is a member of the pack and the pack must hunt. Being a part of the pack and the hunt is the werewolf’s or Uratha’s nature and these dual drives create the story building engine for this RPG.

Auspices are in relation to the face of the moon upon the characters first change to the wolf and outline the characters personality, goals and desires. Auspices are (think character class) The Visionary, The Walker Between, The Stalker, The Spirit Master and The Warrior. Each of these is interesting as well as very distinctive. In regards to character mechanics, each Auspice starts with a specific grouping of gifts, skills, renown and benefits. The tail wags the wolf in this section (a compliment) as everything to do with the individual character builds, keeps to its own and will so in gameplay in regards to dice rolls and mechanics.

Tribes provide a comprehensive subset of culture and philosophy for the characters, the RPG provides five, with the sixth entry involving those who choose to go without a tribe association. Most likely is that the characters will all be in the same tribe and same lodge/pack though it is certainly possible for them not to be. Whichever culture is selected to presumably play is very important. So much so, that it will steer the scope of the game or chronicle. Each tribe is just as diverse as the next, allowing a great deal of variation in regards to the sort of RPG going to be played or the type of story going to be told. I’ll let the game speak for itself:

“Some werewolves turn their back on the duty of Father Wolf. Some remove the marks of Mother Luna upon their spirit, following those Firstborn who ignore their duties, calling themselves the Pure. Others try to ignore the call of the hunt entirely, turning their back not just on Mother Luna and Father Wolf but on their need to hunt. These Ghost Wolves try to ignore what they are, embracing a life that has can never be the same.” ( Pg. 33)

While Auspices cover what the character is and Tribes provide a culture, Lodges are the main setting piece for the how and why the characters interact with the game world. To put it shortly lodges are the finger on the bow, on the gift of the setting. Though the lodges sections are brief when you combine these three elements the picture of the game you want to play comes together quite nicely.

Creating a character with WtF 2Ed is involving without being too time consuming and a lot of fun.

Step one is creating a concept for the character and determining three aspirations. These are exactly what they seem. Create a concept and a list of what the werewolf character aspires to.

Steps two through four are about traits (attributes), skills (generic) and skill specialties (specifics). Nine traits are separated equally into three categories; trait categories are mental, physical and social. In regards to game mechanics the strength of each trait as well as the proficiency in skills are represented by a dot on a character sheet. Each dot represents a D10.

With character creation each of the nine traits receives one dot to start. The player allocates additional dots to each of these three categories, and then distributes the dots based on preference or character concept. In other words, what the player considers the most important trait category receives the most dots to distribute-the least important fewer dots.

Skills are grouped by the same three categories as traits and the distribution of dots follows the exact same model as the player decided for traits. The trait with most dots receives the most skills selections. Each character receives three specialties to start the game. For instance, a character has three dots in the drive skill but has selected a specialty in motorcycle, provides the player with an additional dot (or D10). When (or if) required to apply a driving check three D10s are rolled, if driving a motorcycle four D10s are rolled.

Steps five six and seven are about rounding out the character. Step five is choosing an auspice, tribe and lodge. Steps six and seven are about distributing dots for Merits and Advantages. Merits reveal the characters allies, holdings, and experiences while Advantages is a matter of looking over your character sheet and calculating.

In regards to game mechanics WtF 2Ed is all about the D10s. In all honesty I despise just about any D10 system I’ve come across except the one used here. While I’m a critical pundit concerning the level of crunch with most RPGs, WtF 2Ed does it well. Specifically, the skills section is an excellent example as each skill is listed, given a general description, and provides an actual breakdown of how it will work mechanically. Each One! Crunch wise this RPG does not outline a huge list of possible events and provide rules so I would put it on the lighter side, but with how skills are presented in the hands of an experienced storyteller this is not a problem.

To conclude, Werewolf the Forsaken 2nd Edition captures the essence of what a story building engine should be, without deteriorating into the common trap of having more sand than box. Character and Setting elements are very detailed, yet the writing allows for a lot of wriggle room in the sort of game that can be played. Not many RPGs even attempt to pull this off, let alone do it successfully. Though this RPG is a bit too sophisticated for my tastes overall I’m impressed. The old World of Darkness line is definitely in capable hands.

Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer & Company and republished here with expressed permission.

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